Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2234


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Melquíades (mehl-KEE-ah-dehs), a wise and honest Gypsy. He makes annual visits to Macondo, a remote, mythical village in Latin America. Having made innumerable trips around the world, he possesses immense knowledge that he reveals to the people of Macondo. He introduces them to inventions such as magnets, astrolabes, telescopes, magnifying glasses, and false teeth. The curiosity of the men is stimulated by their hope of finding a panacea for life, but the women are not impressed. In spite of his wisdom, Melquíades cannot transcend the problems of daily life. First reported as dead but actually living through death, he reappears in Macondo. There, he is the first to die and be buried. Periodically, he comes back ethereally, seen by some and lost to others. He has left a precious parchment manuscript, the history of both the past and the future of Macondo, to those who can read its Sanskrit and decipher its meaning.

José Arcadio Buendía

José Arcadio Buendía (hoh-SEH ahr-KAH-dee-oh bwehn-DEE-ah), the family patriarch, the founder and colonizer of Macondo. He is the leader and most enterprising of its settlers. He becomes enthralled with the knowledge and inventions of Melquíades, but his spirit of initiative disappears. He becomes careless and lazy in his dress. He tries to find gold with the magnets, turn base metals into precious ones with the alchemist’s laboratory, use a magnifying glass as an instrument of war, demonstrate that the world is round with an astrolabe, and prove the existence or nonexistence of God with a daguerreotype. Preoccupied with the larger issues of life, he searches for universal wealth, remedies, and answers to the questions of existence. When he goes berserk, ten men are necessary to tie him to a tree in the backyard of the family home. There, he speaks in Latin with the village priest and is attended to by his family. Finally, he dies, and a rain of yellow flowers blankets the village.

Úrsula Iguarán

Úrsula Iguarán (EWR-suh-lah ee-gwahr-RAHN), the wife of José Arcadio and the matriarch of the Buendías. With more common sense than her husband, she solves the ordinary problems of daily living for her family. She is kind and generous. She always has food and a place in the family for anyone who appears. She is the stable and guiding force in the lives of her three children and adopted daughter, although none of them turns out the way she would have preferred. She also takes a hand in the rearing of future generations of Buendías, trying to correct her past mistakes, but they too are found wanting. Each generation reflects the patterns of its historical setting. Earlier generations of males have great physical or intellectual powers, whereas later generations tend to be weaker in spirit and stamina. The females increasingly approach the model of the modern liberated woman as the novel moves through several generations of women.

José Arcadio

José Arcadio, their gigantic older son, who marries Rebeca. Born on the journey to found Macondo, he does not share his father’s interest in inventions. Initiated into the mysteries of sex by the family’s servant, Pilar Ternera, he quickly leaves town when she becomes pregnant. He joins the circus and goes around the world. Lost to the family for several years, he returns fully grown and awesomely developed. Because he is stronger than anyone else and has an enormous sex organ, women pay to sleep with him. The chemistry between him and his adoptive sister Rebeca is such that they have to be married in three days. Ordered out of the family, they set up a separate household. He expands his estate, knocking down fences and incorporating the lands of others into his holdings. When he is shot, it is not clear if it is an accident, a suicide, someone’s revenge,...

(The entire section contains 2654 words.)

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